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Morning shootaround — Aug. 25

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Harden organizes players-only camp | Kaminsky working to improve his defense | Sefolosha: Hawks have ‘different dynamic’ now

No. 1: Harden organizes Rockets’ players-only camp — Star players on NBA teams are tasked with a variety of responsibilities, with overall leadership of the team being perhaps their most important job to succeed at. As such, many standout players — from the New Orleans Pelicans’ Jrue Holiday to Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James — are organizing players-only workouts and mini-camps before NBA training camps open in late September. According to Marc Berman of Fox26Houston.com, James Harden is doing likewise for the Houston Rockets:

For the second consecutive year Houston Rockets guard James Harden has organized a players-only minicamp scheduled for next week.

Last September Harden had the Rockets players together for a minicamp in Los Angeles.

“James is doing everything,” said Corey Brewer, Rockets guard/forward. “He is showing he wants to be a leader.

“He’s the franchise player. He signed the extension. So it’s his team, and he’s doing all the right things to do what we need to do to have a chance to win championships.”

Harden’s plan is to hold the minicamp in Miami. However, the potential of bad weather hitting South Florida may cause the Rockets players to work in a different city.

Eric Gordon said the Rockets players had a “good group” for players-only workouts around the same time as the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.

“It was just everybody getting together,” Gordon said. “It wasn’t a real structured thing.

“It was just guys working out together.”

Brewer is looking forward to getting together with his teammates.

“I’ve got to go down there with the fellas,” Brewer said. “It’s a good thing. We got to get together. Get to know each other, team camaraderie. You need that, especially now days the way the NBA is. A lot of good players, but you got to be a team.

“We want to send a message that we’re ready to go. We’re going to work our butts off. All the guys have been working hard this summer. Last year was a year that we didn’t like. Everybody has a bitter taste in their mouth. So we can’t wait to get started.”

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No. 2: Kaminsky trying to step up defense in season No. 2 — Charlotte Hornets big man Frank Kaminsky came into the NBA last season as one of the most decorated college players in the 2015 Draft. However, once the bright lights of the NBA became a reality, Kaminsky initially struggled to carve out a solid role in Charlotte’s frontcourt. He eventually ended up playing in 81 games at 21.1 minutes per contest and had solid averages of 7.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists. Yet Kaminsky knows for Charlotte to take a big leap in the Eastern Conference in 2016-17, he’s got to improve his defense. Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer has more:

I asked Kaminsky a slew of questions Wednesday at Time Warner Cable…oops the Spectrum Center (going to take a while to get used to name changes). He told me he’s fine following chest surgery to address air bubbles along his lungs and that he appreciates the value coach Steve Clifford places on his wide skill set.

But, frankly, the most interesting answer I got was when I asked Kaminsky, the ninth overall pick in 2015, about what he still perceives as his flaw.

“I’ve got to be a better overall defender. I was overwhelmed at times,” Kaminsky said. “My preparation, obviously, needs to get better. I so want to be a more consistent player. I’d have a good game and then disappear in the next.”

His job at the defensive end with the Badgers was to keep other big men from getting layups and dunks.. In the modern-day NBA, his job as a power forward is to chase sleek, athletic 6-foot-10 guys from the rim to the 3-point line.

Fortunately, Kaminsky has a terrific role model in teammate Marvin Williams. Kaminsky is evolving from a center to a power forward. Williams evolved from a small forward to a power forward. But at the end of the day, Kaminsky can learn so much from Williams, who re-signed with the Hornets this summer.

“Marvin is one of the hardest-working people I’ve ever seen. So, of course, I model myself after Marvin,” Kaminsky said. “His mindset is always the same. He’s the guy who pays attention to every little nick and nuance of the game.

“Say, you go over something once in a shootaround before a game. The (other) team might run that play once in a game. And before that happens, he knows it’s coming. That’s the way I want to be. He just knows it’s coming.”

Williams should undoubtedly be the starter at power forward next season, but that doesn’t mean Clifford lacks excitement about Kaminsky’s potential. A 7-footer who can make 3s, dribble, pass and post up creates intriguing possibilities.

Kaminsky considers himself lucky that Clifford, a grinder by nature, is his first NBA coach.

“You feel so prepared for everything,” Kaminsky said. “You saw it in every single shootaround and practice. He sees things. If you take something away once, that might throw off their game plan. Cliff sees that. But if you let them get away with it once, it might be real trouble for you.

“He always says, ‘You play the game you’re prepared to play.’ I don’t think anyone is more prepared than that guy. His notes on every team – on what we need to take away – he always shares them with us pre-game. There are no excuses for why we can’t take something away.”

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No. 3: Sefolosha says Hawks have ‘different dynamic’ now — The Atlanta Hawks went through a small roster makeover in the offseason, trading former All-Star point guard Jeff Teague to the Indiana Pacers and opting not to re-sign stalwart big man and four-time All-Star Al Horford. Those changes allowed former backup point guard Dennis Schroder and center Dwight Howard, who signed this summer, to take on the vacancies in the lineup. Thabo Sefolosha has been with the Hawks for two seasons and, in a Q&A with Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, explains how these moves change the team’s direction:

Q. Generally, what are your thoughts about the offseason changes to the roster?

A. Things have changed a little bit. It’s going to be a new season. I think we have a different dynamic now. It’s going to take a little bit to get used to I’m sure but I think it’s a good change for us. It’s going to bring some toughness, I think. Hopefully, we’ll be competitive.

Q. Dwight Howard will replace Al Horford and Dennis Schroder will replace Jeff Teague. Specifically how do you see the team being different next season? First with Howard?

A. (Howard) is not as much of a stretch-5. Al could really pick-and-pop and shoot the ball. I think Dwight is going to me more of a force close to the basket. I think it’s definitely going to have an impact on the defensive end and the intensity that we play with. It’s definitely something that we were missing. So I think he’s going to come and fill a big void that we had in that area.

Q. Second with Schroder?

A. I love what Jeff was bringing to the team. It’s always tough. Dennis has an incredible talent. He’s going to be great. He’s going to be the point guard. It’s going to be tough. I think we are all going to help him. I think it’s a tough position to be so young and to have so much on your shoulders. I think it’s going to be on all of us to help him. Help him and Dwight. The relationship between the point guard and the (center) is going to be huge. I think early we have to establish something good for them to feel comfortable and it’s going to be on us as veterans, guys like me who have been with the team for a period.”

Q. Also, I’m told that the presence of Howard will open up some outside shooting. Do you agree?

A. That’s common knowledge of basketball. Guys rolling to the basket who are that athletic obviously he can go and get it and dunk it. They are going to have to guard that. We are going to have a little bit of a different feel. Maybe it’s going to be a little more open on the wings. There were times when we had all five guys outside of the 3-point line last year. That’s going to be different.

Q. How long of an adjustment period with the changes?

A. Nobody can tell. The best thing to do is embrace the process and not worry if things are going the way we want the first two weeks of the season. For us, it’s going to be about building a team. Then when we go on the court – win or lose – if we fight together and everybody feels like family and everybody embraces their role we are going to be good.

Q. Do you look at it like they’ve made these changes and you’re going to be better next year? How do you look at where you fit in the spectrum of the Eastern Conference?

A. We’ve lost in some aspects. We’ve gained some with Dwight coming – great player, incredible talent – so I think it’s hard to say. We lose a guy like Al, you can’t say if it will be easy to get something that he was bringing to the team. Overall, I think we’ve still got a good core group of guys. It’s going to be on us to be a team and play as a team and to win games.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Great video of DeMarcus Cousins going undercover to referee a pickup gameRiley Curry now has a really cool playhouse … The Atlanta Hawks hope to have all of their renovations to Philips Arena done by the start of the 2018-19 season … An Ohio farm created a trio of pretty awesome corn mazes to celebrate the Cleveland Cavaliers’ championship … E’Twaun Moore opens up about why he signed with the New Orleans Pelicans this summer …

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